In early 2001, two businessmen in Lancaster, Calif., were approached by a local schoolteacher who asked if they could find investors to create a charter school that would help at-risk kids and keep them from dropping out. As savvy business leaders, they understood the correlation between dropouts and crime, which was on the increase in Lancaster. So, despite not knowing much about charter schools, founders Dante Simi and Jeff Brown put together a group of investors and launched the first Learn4Life school.
With an initial staff of nine, they soon had 173 students who were attracted by the personalized, one-on-one teaching and the flexible schedule. Because we can accept students up to 22 years of age, there was a new hope for those youth who had aged out of high school. The following year we celebrated our first commencement with 73 new high school graduates.
Today, we have 80+ learning centers in California, and recently expanded into Michigan, Ohio, South Carolina and Texas. In the past two decades, we have saved 170,000 students from dropping out…with 25,000 graduating with us and the remainder catching up on credits and returning to their high school to graduate with their cohorts. We’ve added programs like Career Technical Education (CTE) pathways, athletics, vocational job training, summer school, experiential learning and a program that helps parenting teens stay in school.
Most importantly, we’ve proven that a model of flexibility and personalized, one-on-one instruction works incredibly well for students who were challenged by and frustrated with the traditional school model of sitting in a classroom all day. We’ve integrated our program with trauma-informed practices to teach students coping skills and how to build resiliency that will serve them beyond high school and into their adult life.
We’re only taking a few minutes to pat ourselves on the back, because there is still much work to be done. Every year 1.2 million young people drop out of high school – that’s about 7,000 students each day of the school year. Dropouts commit 75 percent of all crime, and it is estimated each dropout costs the system $212,000 during their life.
We continue to battle harmful policies and legislation that aim to defund charters and interrupt the education that so many at-risk students need. Please help us spread the word that charters like Learn4Life are critical to save the lives of our young people and keep our communities safer and thriving.